Thursday 2/27 from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Band Pro’s Burbank HQ hosts a free Sony FX9 Workshop. Band Pro’s In-House technical staff and Sony’s Shahpour Nosrati will demo the key details of Sony’s latest full frame 4K camera and answer questions in an interactive, hands-on environment. As always this event is free to attend. Snacks and beverages will be… read more…
To celebrate the completion of Philip Bloom’s Filmmaking for Photographers course, MZed is running a giveaway where you can win a share of prizes including store credit to B&H, RØDE microphones, Atomos Ninja V, Glyph 2TB Atom RAID SSD and more. The Filmmaking for Photographers course is relevant for both photographers and filmmakers who want … Continued
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Leica has released new versions of three of its existing M lenses, giving users a choice of a silver option of the normal 75mm, and two limited edition lenses to match the green M10-P ‘Safari’. The silver anodized APO-Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH will be a standard production model to give all M users an alternative to the black paint version that is currently available. Leica UK will charge a £200 premium for the silver model though it seems to be the same price as the black version in the USA. The Miami Leica store has this model marked as a limited edition of 300 units worldwide but still lists it as the same price as the black model. That may be a mistake.
The Safari green Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH and APO-Summicron-M 90mm f/2 ASPH lenses will be limited editions, with Leica producing 500 units of the first and 250 of the second. These two lenses join the Summicron-M 50mm f/2 to form a set of three that match the M10-P ‘Safari’ camera that is finished in the same green paint.
The original Leica M1 in Olive for the armed forces
All these cameras were marked with the word Bundeseigentum – Federal Property
Leica says these green models follow in the footsteps of the original Leica M1 which was produced in Olive for the German Armed forces in the early 1960s. Those cameras were all marked ‘Bundeseigentum’ to denote that they were the property of the German government and now fetch a good price as, according to Dutch dealer Schouten, there were only 208 units made. The original M1 Olive cameras only had the standard-issue lenses for the time though, so no matching green paint in those days.
The three new lenses will start shipping at the end of February.
- APO-Summicron-M 75 f/2 ASPH. silver anodized: £3,500/$4395
- Summicron-M 28 f/2 ASPH. Edition ‘Safari’: £3,800/$4895
- APO-Summicron-M 90 f/2 ASPH. Edition ‘Safari’: £4,000/$5095
For more information see the Leica website.
Leica Camera introduces three new M-lens variations
Wetzlar, February 14, 2020. Leica Camera is delighted to present three new lenses for the Leica M-System: the silver anodised APO-Summicron-M 75 f/2 ASPH. as well as two limited editions, the Summicron-M 28 f/2 ASPH. and APO-Summicron-M 90 f/2 ASPH. which both come in an olive-green ‘Safari’ finish. The technical specifications of the three new lenses are identical to those of their serially produced counterparts.
The APO-Summicron-M 75 f/2 ASPH. is known as one of the most high-performing lenses for the Leica M-System and is particularly suitable for portrait photography. The new lens variation features an anodised finish and in contrast to the black-paint variant, the feet markings on the distance scale as well as the focal length engravings are inlaid in red, while all other engravings feature black inlays, emphasising the sophisticated design of the Leica M.
Leica is also releasing two limited editions, the Summicron-M 28 f/2 ASPH. and APO-Summicron-M 90 f/2 ASPH. with a special, olive-green paint finish. Both ‘Safari’-edition lenses feature red-inlaid feet markings on the distance scale and red focal length markings, while all other engravings are inlaid in white, creating a stylish juxtaposition with the olive-green lens.
The exceptionally hard-wearing, olive-green paint has a long-standing tradition at Leica. The first Leica cameras to be treated with this superior-quality enamel finish were designed for military use in 1960. Shortly after, the cameras became widely renowned as robust tools that could withstand even the most extreme conditions and what had started with the Leica M1 ‘Olive’ for the German Armed Forces went on to become an enduring success story. While the Leica M3 and M4 in olive-green were still manufactured exclusively for military use, a growing demand among private customers prompted Leica to release the first market version – the Leica R3 ‘Safari’ – in 1977. This was followed by the M6 TTL ‘Safari’ in 2000, the M8.2 ‘Safari’ in 2008, the M-P (Typ 240) ‘Safari’ of 2015 and, most recently, the M10-P Edition ‘Safari’ in 2019. Today, the olive-green cameras are highly sought-after by collectors and Leica enthusiasts alike.
Aside from the Leica Summicron-M 50 f/2, released in 2019, the new Summicron-M 28 f/2 ASPH. and APO-Summicron-M 90 f/2 ASPH. are the only M lenses to perfectly match the olive-green Leica M10-P Edition ‘Safari’, making the lenses a desirable addition to any Leica M Camera. Only 500 units will be available of the Summicron-M 28 f/2 ASPH. Edition ‘Safari’; the APO-Summicron-M 90 f/2 ASPH. Edition ‘Safari’ is limited to 250 units.
You can download high-res images here; all three lenses are available from end of February.
- APO-Summicron-M 75 f/2 ASPH. silver anodised: £3,500
- Summicron-M 28 f/2 ASPH. Edition ‘Safari’: £3,800
- APO-Summicron-M 90 f/2 ASPH. Edition ‘Safari’: £4,000
Even if you’re only a casual time-lapse photographer then you probably know how challenging it can be to shoot a time-lapse sequence that involves drastic changes in lighting conditions. For example, sequences shot during periods of time covering sunrises, sunsets, moonrises and moonsets are difficult because a single set of exposure parameters won’t work for the entire sequence. It’s also unlikely that your camera’s Auto Exposure mode will give you proper results, especially during low light conditions.
That’s where the Timelapse+ View intervalometer, a device designed to automate day-to-night time-lapse sequences, comes in. It retails for $399 and it includes Timelapse+ Studio, a Lightroom plugin for processing the timelapse sequences. Studio is also sold separately for $49.
I started photographing astronomical observatories 12 years ago. Whenever I needed to leave my camera unattended I would expose for the nighttime conditions (mainly considering the Moon’s brightness) and start my time-lapse sequence before sunset. The sequence would start completely overexposed but would become correctly exposed as it got darker. I would then try to salvage as many evening and morning twilight frames as possible by reducing the exposure value and recovering highlight information in post-processing. (More on how to do this in the Timelapse+ Studio for Non-Ramped Sequences section below.)
Timelapse+ View (the hardware)
All that hassle and limitation can be eliminated with the use of an exposure ramper, a device that progressively changes the exposure according to the lighting conditions. Some devices require that you know beforehand how the light is going to change as a function of time (that is, a light curve) and program the device accordingly. For changes involving the Sun and the Moon, this light curve will depend on the day of the year and your latitude on Earth. Consequently, a lot of trial and error might be required.
With the Timelapse+ View you can correctly expose the first frame of a sequence and let its auto ramping mode do the rest of the work. The View is an intervalometer and exposure ramper that uses algorithms to analyze the last several exposures and determine how the lighting conditions are changing. Then it predicts the correct exposure for the next frame and sets it accordingly on the camera. At the same time, the View ignores transient sources of light such as headlights.
With the Timelapse+ View you can correctly expose the first frame of a sequence and let its auto ramping mode do the rest of the work.
The View has an internal battery which can be recharged via a Micro-B USB cable connected to a power device or AC outlet adapter. It sits on the camera hot shoe and is connected to the camera via a USB cable (simultaneous multi-camera control is supported via an optional USB port). The View works with many camera models from Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Fuji and Olympus, and works with most motion control systems for shoot-move-shoot functionality and motion keyrame integration. It writes image files to either the camera memory card or to an SD card in the unit itself.
Exposure ramping a day-to-night sequence
To shoot a day-to-night sequence, one sets the camera to the lowest ISO and the appropriate shutter speed, making sure that no highlights are clipped. This initial setup will ensure that the sequence will not be overexposed. Since I always shoot in Raw I leave the white balance set to Auto (AWB) and edit the values in post-processing. (See below to learn how to edit a varying White Balance with Timelapse+ Studio.)
You can program the View with its intuitive menu but I prefer to use the free TL+View app (iOS and Android) to program, monitor, and even override my time-lapse sequences. The View can also be controlled from a web-based app on any device with a web browser.
In the first video example below, I captured a fisheye time-lapse sequence of night falling in Nashville for a planetarium show produced by Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. The most natural way of viewing circular fisheye photography is by projecting it on a dome. This results in an immersive experience putting the viewer at the center of the action.
For this sequence I set up a Nikon D810A with a Fisheye-Nikkor 8mm F2.8 AI-s lens by the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville. I chose an initial shutter speed of 1/250 sec and ISO 200 (with a fixed F8 aperture) and used the View’s Auto Day/Night interval mode. I set the (initial) ‘Day’ Interval to 5 sec, the ‘Night’ Interval to 10 sec, and chose Speed and ISO Auto Ramping (Aperture ramping mode is also available on the View).
In the Speed and ISO Auto Ramping mode, the View will gradually increase the exposure time and interval between exposures as night falls. ISO values will increase when the exposure time approaches the interval. In the Nashville sequence, the final shutter speed was 5 sec with an interval of 7 sec. It is interesting that during the sequence the ISO gradually decreased from 200 to 100. That’s because, whenever possible, the View will use the longest exposure (for a smoother motion) and lowest ISO (for a lower noise), even if this does not change the resulting exposure.
The View is an intervalometer and exposure ramper that uses algorithms to analyze the last several exposures and determine how the lighting conditions are changing.
I later learned that one can set a mimimum ISO. Setting this to 200 would have prevented the D810A from going into its extended (non-native) ISO range (below 200). According to the developer, only native ISO values should be used since going below the lowest native ISO could cause loss of highlights.
While a time-lapse sequence is in progress you can preview the sequence on the unit’s screen by using hand gestures. This nifty feature lets you control the sequence playback without ever touching the unit, and unintentionally moving the camera. Of course, you can also preview and monitor the sequence remotely using the TL+View mobile app or web-based interface (connected via Wi-Fi, either locally or over the internet). Furthermore, if you need to tweak the sequence settings, the app lets you make changes spread over a determined number of frames, resulting in a smooth change.
On the next page, I’ll explain how to process your images using the Timelapse+ Studio Lightroom plugin.
The impact of Sergio Leone’s filmography is colossal. Many of Leone’s signature touches from his classic Man with No Name trilogy become norms in the Western genre. Ultimately, his tragically short filmography leaves one wanting more. Fortunately, a quick Google search of popular spaghetti westerns can offer a long list of films that very closely resemble Leone’s iconic output. Therefore, the purpose of this list is to uncover — for the most part — movies that unexpectedly reveal similarities to Leone’s signature style or sensibilities that most Google searches won’t offer.
1. Track of the Cat (1954)
William A. Wellman’s Track of the Cat is a bold American western, fusing elements of arthouse and melodrama. The movie follows a Califronian family isolated in a ranch. Gradually, they become overcome by domestic tensions, hostile weather, and fear of a panther supposedly prowling in the mountains. Wellmam, the director of Wings and The Ox-Bow Incident, conceived of the movie through its relationship to colour. The film relies predominantly on the high contrast between the overwhelming shades of white and black. With some vibrant exceptions, most other colours are muted. Indeed, it’s a heavily symbolic film and a definitive outlier in the landscape of 1950s westerns.
Far more subdued and foreboding than anything Leone ever touched, Track of the Cat nonetheless shares a similar taste for genre subversion. At a time when the western genre was dominated by John Wayne/John Ford or James Stewart/Anthony Mann collaborations, Wellman aspired to take the genre in a different direction. In Track of the Cat, everything is a metaphor and there’s no hint of glory in the Wild West. Other westerns of the era would still sometimes critique the idealized underpinnings of masculinity and racist American valor embedded in the genre. Yet Wellman’s film takes a more radical stance, revealing these qualities as myth from the very beginning.
2. Yojimbo (1961)
Cinema of the West owes a lot to Akira Kurosawa. Star Wars is, of course, The Hidden Fortress reimagined as a space opera. Even countless classics from the western genre are remakes or riffs on some of Kurosawa’s most iconic samurai films. John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven is Seven Samurai with cowboys. Even Leone’s own A Fistful of Dollars is an unofficial remake of Yojimbo.The premise is the same: a lone figure finds himself in the midst of a conflict between two rival gangs and begins playing them against each other. However, Leone’s own creative impulses result in a very different movie.
Perhaps most notably, Toshiro Mifune’s performance is in stark opposition to Clint Eastwood’s. Mifune is wild, energetic and bubbling with violent glee. Eastwood is famously stoic, watching situations unfold without seeming particularly engaged. Yojimbo is, as a whole, some of Kurosawa’s most unrestrained action cinema. Mifune’s hacks his way through assailants, splattering blood and scattering limbs. Kurosawa collaborates with legendary cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, filming in stark, gorgeous black and white. The film’s aesthetics and temperament are vastly different from Leone’s rendition in A Fistful of Dollars. Yet the two distinct films are united by a gleeful predilection for suspense and deception.
3. The Great Silence (1968)
Sergio Corbucci, a contemporary of Leone, delivered his magnum opus with The Great Silence. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a mute gunslinger named Silence who’s hunted by a collective of bounty hunters led by a sadistic Klaus Kinski. While the movie leans into similar iconography and stylings as Leone, it’s ultimately far more mournful and elegiac. Even Ennio Morricone’s score avoids the grandiose dramatics he brings to Leone’s works, instead focusing on the sadness of the western. The film is among the western’s bleakest works, trampling over any sense of hope. Corbucci was influenced by the recent, tragic murders of Che Guevara and Malcolm X, and wanted to craft a condemnation of America’s eternal tendencies towards hatred and violence.
The Great Silence is packed with unforgettable imagery. Corbucci avoids the classic western landscapes of wide deserts and sun-glowing skies. His film is cold. Landscapes drown in thick snow, and a wild wind howls across the soundtrack. The warmth and radiance of the old John Wayne western is dead. The Great Silence is about a transition into a period without hope. In Corbucci’s western, there’s no room for heroes. His take on the spaghetti western is far more nihilistic than Leone’s. In The Great Silence, America is irredeemably broken.
4. The Wild Bunch (1969)
After the success of Italy’s spaghetti westerns, American westerns changed. It happened pretty abruptly with Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, a film whose slow-motion, blood-splattering shootouts feel revolutionary to this day. The movie is far more chaotic than anything Leone ever released. With its signature quick cuts rapidly teleporting the camera across a battleground, it can be hard to follow the fight. That’s, however, what makes The Wild Bunch so mesmerizing. Peckinpah and his editor Lou Lombardo make visceral action scenes, prioritizing chaos over coherence. The film’s hectic cuts toss the audience headfirst into violent shootouts.
Peckinpah is a tremendous filmmaker, maligned in his own time and still underrated today. His films, bloodsoaked and gritty, introduced a newfound depravity to mainstream American cinema. However, his reputation as merely a sadistic artist feels reductive. Peckinpah was also an incredibly sincere filmmaker, deeply concerned both with how his characters repress their emotions and also the life-shattering consequences of violence. He wasn’t merely a trigger-happy lunatic.
There’s no better evidence than Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, a film where countless acts of violence have severe and devastating emotional repercussions. This degree of sincerity is absent from much of Leone’s early work, but it begins to trickle in. By the end of his career, with Once Upon a Time in America, Leone’s relationship to violence had changed. America, like best Peckinpah’s work, is a film deeply concerned with the results of violence, both on its victims and its perpetrators.
5. 1900 (1976)
Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 is the director’s finest work. It’s a five-hour epic, tracking the history of Italy’s political landscape in the first half of the 20th Century. The movie follows two childhood friends (Robert de Niro and Gérard Depardieu) into adulthood. The men are opposites, raised from contrasting socioeconomic backgrounds and maturing into polarized ideologies. Bertolucci uses these characters to explore the clash between Italian socialism and fascism.
Leone’s films were never overtly concerned with political systems or ideology. However, 1900 bears the markings of a clear predecessor to Once Upon a Time in America. Some of the key players are present; De Niro and Ennio Morricone are some of both movies’ greatest assets. 1900, much like America, is concerned with tracing the evolution of a country through specific relationships. At the core of both movies is a tragic friendship. Bertolucci and Leone both shared a knack for capturing something grand and epic through moments of intimacy.
Unfortunately, 1900 was a commercial failure at the time of its release. Its catastrophic box office revenues drove producers away from the risk of distributing incredibly long films in wide release. As a result, Once Upon a Time in America was cut into an increasingly short film, until it was released domestically at almost half its full length.
From Concept to Cover
Russ O Connell
For Russ O’Connell, looking at photographs was always more enjoyable than making them. The realization sparked the beginning of his career as a respected photo editor, working for some of the biggest consumer publications in the UK before taking the reins as picture editor at London’s The Sunday Times Magazine in 2015.
O’Connell has worked with some of the biggest names in photography and commissioned portraits of notable people across art, politics and society throughout his career, for this reason we’re thrilled to have him on our jury for the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2020.
In this interview, he speaks to Alana Holmberg for LensCulture about the process of commissioning a compelling portrait from concept to cover and how to approach an opportunity to present your work to a photo editor for the first time.
Alana Holmberg: Russ, you’ve established a successful career in photography, working for a host of publications and brands, and sitting on the panels for several leading awards and scholarships. Can you tell us a little about your beginnings in photography and what keeps you engaged with it?
Russ O’Connell: I always had an interest in the image. At school, I was more creative than academic. I started at art college in London, finally going on to study photography at university. After finishing my studies I realized that although I had found my passion, I was more interested in looking at other people’s photographs than taking my own, which led me into the world of photo editing as a career.
AH: What are some of the misconceptions that exist about the role of the photo editor within the photography community, or the publications you’ve worked with?
RO: A lot of the misconception is that photo editors are just pulling images from various different photographic sources to accompany articles. Perhaps in respect to picture research for a feature, that is true to a certain degree, but even that task requires an in-depth knowledge of photographers’ work and picture agency archives to know where exactly to obtain the right pictures. But in regards to the commissioning side of the job, photo editing is very hands on.
My role often starts with coming up with a concept for a shoot. A subject can be anyone from a politician, A-List actor, head of state, musician, or a member of the general public, and each time I have to decide the look and feel of what we want to achieve with the subject. From there, my role then extends to producing the shoot, from commissioning the right photographer, stylist, hair and make-up artists, to sourcing the location or studio to work in. I then physically attend the shoot and work alongside the photographer to art direct and make sure that we fulfill the brief I set out. So I’m very much seeing the whole process through from concept to completion.
That said, my role isn’t only commissioning studio portraiture. One minute I can be sending a photojournalist to shoot a piece in a war-zone or a hostile environment, or commissioning a documentary photographer to shoot a long form project in a more domestic situation.
AH: In your various roles as a photo editor, including your current position with The Sunday Times Magazine, what have you observed about the progression of photographic portraiture?
RO: I think in some sense it has progressed, but it has also regressed. There are always going to be instances where new technology comes along that allows a photographer to achieve a very stylized look and feel to their images, be that through new lighting technology, or retouching and grading techniques. But at the same time, there seems to be a very strong trend of new photographers adopting analog film as their main medium. This is funny in a way, as the older generation who grew up and trained solely using analog media have now moved into a digital workflow for their practice. Many who I’ve spoken to would never go back! Yet the younger generation of photographers—those who have most likely been introduced to the practice through the digital medium—have gone the other way. Many see something in film and the analog practice that they prefer to the newer technologies being developed.
AH: Perhaps there is something in the unknown of analog for those in the highly predictable world of digital. Some magic the inability to see the image and the element of surprise when the film comes back. Have you observed any difference in the shoot itself between photographers using analog instead of digital, particularly in portraiture?
RO: It’s definitely a much slower-paced shoot when someone is shooting film, and tends to become a lot more about the relationship between the photographer and the sitter. There is a more of a trust element at play between them both, which in turn can bring out the best in a subject; insecurities tend to vanish as they are not confronted with the image of themselves right away. When you are shooting digital, often the camera is tethered up to a computer or screen so everyone can see the captures as they happen. This is great for me when directing a shoot or shooting into a given template that can be overlaid, but this also has disadvantages as everyone then chips in on what they think. It becomes less about the photographer and the subject and more about everyone’s opinion on what looks good or not. This can lead to confusion and insecurity with the sitter.
AH: Speaking of analog photography, since its early invention, photography and portraiture have gone hand in hand. We love to look at photographs of others, make photographs of others and ourselves. Why do you think that is?
RO: I think it’s because we inherently and subconsciously look at faces and eyes constantly, not only to identify people but also to gauge emotion. You can see in peoples’ eyes when they are angry, sad, or elated, so photographic portraiture is an obvious style to accompany, say, an interview in a magazine. It not only shows the person’s face in question, but it may also allow the viewer to see and interpret what that person is thinking of at the time.
AH: Do you think there’s something in the fact that through a photographic portrait, we can examine the face of another, often close up, in a way that we would never be able to do in person? Does portrait photography satisfy an innate curiosity or desire to study other people?
RO: I find the more that you study a portrait of someone, then the more their face changes away from your initial perception of what they look like. We are so used to looking at people for brief periods of time, but we don’t really lock eye contact for more than a few seconds at a time. If you actually look at someone statically for a longer time then they start to look different, and you notice little details that you otherwise wouldn’t pick up on.
AH: The Sunday Times Magazine often runs a portrait of high-profile people on the cover, in recent times Hillary Clinton, Elisabeth Moss, and David Hockney have been featured. What do you look for when commissioning a photographer to make a portrait and, as an editor, how do you work together to achieve a successful outcome?
RO: Firstly he or she needs to be capable, but also I look for photographers who can not only execute a brief, but also bring something extra to the table. I work very closely with the assigned photographer to work out the best way to achieve what we are looking to do, bouncing ideas off each other and nailing down the finest detail to make sure I get what we need.
At the same time, I also like to allow the photographers the freedom to express themselves artistically and shoot how they would like to see the image. It’s about having trust in those that you commission, which is perhaps why I run a fairly tight small pool of photographers on the magazine as I know that they can deliver what I need, even if I’m unable to be there in person on the shoot. It’s the best of both worlds when I get what I want and the photographer is able to achieve what he or she wants to try and get from the shoot.
AH: Given the magazine comes out weekly, what does the cover portrait need to do in terms of reaching your audience and can you name a couple of recent examples that were particularly successful?
RO: Recently we ran a cover of the actor Richard E. Grant to tie in with his forthcoming appearance in the new Star Wars film. We styled him completely—red top and red coat—and shot him on a red background. The choice of red was a very subtle nod to its association with the dark side in the Star Wars films such as the Imperial Guards and red lightsabers. Red is also associated with danger and his character was a baddie in the film, so the color choice covered all bases for us, both as an engaging portrait, but it also had subtle undertones that the viewer could read into.
AH: In preparing to meet or show work with an editor or juror, do you have any advice for photographers who want to put their best foot forward? What are common mistakes people make in preparing to show their work?
RO: Do you research. I can’t stress this enough. Countless times I am presented with work that has no relevance to the title or field that I am working in, so it’s really important to ask yourself is the work right and up to standard. Don’t copy other people’s work and ultimately you have to believe that you can do better or bring something to the table that no other existing photographer does, so that you stand out from the crowd.
AH: As a juror for our Portrait Awards, you’ll be looking through many established and aspiring portrait photographers from all over the world. What do you enjoy about the process of being on a jury like this?
RO: I love looking at photography full stop and I am lucky enough to get paid in a job that allows me to do that for a living. I’m really looking forward to seeing a variety of styles and unexpected surprises.
Enjoy more great photography:
- The Cold Automatons of Contemporary London
- Alaga and Filipina Nannies
- Jin – Jiyan – Azadi: Women, Life, Freedom
- 11 Favorite Portrait Series from 2014
- Lands of No-Return
At this year’s Academy Awards, Todd Phillips’s Joker took home Oscars for Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir. It received the most nominations (11) ever for a comic-based movie.
Shot by often collaborator, cinematographer Lawrence Sher (Hangover, Garden State). Hurlbut Academy has released an analysis video talking about the look and cinematography of Joker. This is the first in their series of “the Look of” videos on recent films.
Joker – the Movie
If you haven’t seen it, Joker is available online and nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (won for Best Actor and Score). It dominated Oscar season, also picking up Best Actor trophies from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Critic’s Choice Awards, and the BAFTAs. Originally controversial, it went on to set records for the highest-grossing R film of all time.
The story tells of failed comedian Arthur Fleck who wears 2 masks: a physical one (paint) and an emotional one connected with audiences as he slowly transforms into the Joker. The film is set in fictional grimy and crime-ridden Gotham City but used 1970-80’s New York City as a visual and tonal reference.
Joker– Pre-Production and Camera Decisions
The look and vibe of Joker were based on the filmmaker’s memories of the 70-80’s NYC. Taxi Driver, the King of Comedy, Serpico, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest were influential and director Todd Philips called them a “time period of movies”. Director of Photography Lawrence Sher says the “memory of the movie is what I was looking for…not necessarily the look of the movie itself”. Joker comics were also referenced while location scouting, to get a feel for the portrayal of the Joker and Gotham City outside the world of films. (In case you missed it, we recently reported about Lawrence Sher’s collaborative online library of movie images, Shotdeck.)
Locations in the NYC area were favored over sets to get away from the glossy superhero feel. Initially wanting to shoot on large format film (65mm) for its shallow depth of field, they eventually decided on the Alexa. It allowed them more takes and was a good fit for Joaquin Phoenix’s improvisational acting. Through extensive testing, they created a LUT to recreate the Kodak 5293 film look.
Joker – Camera and Lenses
The visual arc of the character was developed just like the arc of the story. Lawrence Sher says “Certainly at the beginning of the movie, I really tried to think about the arc of photography just like the arc of the character.
They used three different cameras (ALEXA 65, ALEXA LF, ALEXA MINI LF) and rehoused vintage optics to stay close to an analog look. They wanted to use lenses that felt like 70-80’s NYC with vignetting and anamorphic style lens flare. A goal was to use the camera to connect the Joker to the audience, so the framing changes through the film to mimic Arthur’s changes. Long and static shots are slowly replaced with handheld wide-angle shots. Camera movement starts slow and tedious and becomes energetic, and Arthur becomes the Joker. DP Lawrence Sher describes it as “A Frankenstein set of lenses” that felt like the lenses of that era.
Joker– Lighting, Editing, and Sound
Visually, the film becomes darker as Arthur changes, and mirrors illustrate his two different selves. The mirror starts as a sad reflection but eventually, the mirror becomes the disturbed yet empowered Joker. Mercury vapor lights influence the orange-green palette to give a gritty aesthetic to the look that reflects the turmoil fo our modern society. The editing and sound (music, sound design) reinforce the dark and gritty vibe that the story and visuals establish.
What do you think of this BTS/look at the cinematography of Joker?
Did you already see the film? Do you want us to make more behind-the-scenes articles like that? Let us know in the comments below!
Netflix’s Locke and Key’s taken a long road to get from the six volume graphic novel and into your Netflix queue. Here’s how showrunners Carlton Cuse and Meredith Averill adapted Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s comic about a family discovering magical keys in their father’s ancestral home, and all the changes they made along the way. It’s time to ask What’s the Difference?